Red and Nancy Arnold are being remembered in Madera County for their generous donations to improve the lives of county residents and their animals.
The foundation that bears the couple's name has contributed more than $6 million to Madera Community Hospital, Madera County Library, Madera County Animal Control and Madera Rescue Mission.
On Tuesday, the Madera County Board of Supervisors will approve a resolution naming May 18 as Red and Nancy Arnold Day to commemorate Nancy Arnold's birthday and the couple's donations to the county. She died in 2010, four years after her husband.
Robert C. "Red" Arnold was from a pioneer Madera family and made a living in farm real estate. He established the foundation with his wife, Nancy Pennycook Arnold. They had no children and left the foundation in the control of nieces and nephews after their deaths.
"We sincerely appreciate the gifts that they've given to our library and animal services department," said Eric Fleming, county administrative officer. The foundation provided $500,000 to the library and $1.5 million to the animal services department.
Like other local governments, Madera County struggled through the recession and library and animal control services were among the hardest-hit agencies, he said.
"When you have to prioritize things, especially over the last few years, public safety has been the priority," Fleming said. "We are getting by on shoestring budgets thanks in large part to volunteers and without them I don't know what we would do."
Money from the Arnolds will pay for parking, bathroom and entrance upgrades at the Madera library, said county librarian Ellen Mester.
The library was built in 1970, "so it's really lacking in a lot of things," she said.
This year, she said, the operating budget is $923,869, down about 50% from five years ago. Library jobs also were sliced in half since then.
"It's just an amazing gift that will make a huge difference for the library and the public who uses it," Mester said.
The Arnolds' money for animal control services is paying to neuter and spay pets.
Since early September, Madera County Animal Control redeemed 1,500 vouchers for such procedures; 4,000 vouchers have been distributed.
"The response has been really great," said Liliana Zapien, an administrative assistant overseeing the voucher program. "I was hoping it would be this good."
She said surgeries are backlogged more than a month.
Statistics show that one female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 dogs in six years, and a female cat and her offspring could bear 420,000 cats in six years, Zapien said.
Typical cost for fixing a dog is $100 to $180, and about $50 for cats, she said.
By the time the money is used up, the county expects that 16,000 to 18,000 animals will have been fixed, which will save the county money on housing unwanted animals and other animal services.
And "we are hoping that maybe this donation will inspire more donations, because there is a great need for spay and neuter in this county," she said.
In recent years, the county has paid $100,000 to animal control services for pet fixing for "low-income residents," which has reduced the number of animals going to the Madera shelter. But vouchers provided through the Arnolds' donation may be used by anyone with an unaltered pet in Madera County.
Madera resident Yolanda Brand said her boyfriend's mother had two mother cats with litters of kittens. She went on the Internet and discovered the Arnold-sponsored program. She got 10 vouchers to have the cats and kittens fixed and vaccinated.
"It would have cost us over $700," she said. "I couldn't believe they did that."
Once the kittens were fixed, some were adopted. Now, they have five cats and kittens, a much easier number to handle.
"I was so thankful that they could help me that me and my boyfriend started volunteering for them," she said.
Unknowingly, Brand is following the lead of the Arnold family, which in a letter about a beloved Madera shelter dog, "Buddy," urged residents to volunteer.
"If your community matters to you, find a way to make it better," the letter stated. "Commit two hours a week doing good things, volunteering, helping, and caring. Invest your time, your interest, your heart, then you and the community will prosper."
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